Sermon, Jan 27, 2019
1 Corinthians 12: 12-31a – Members of the Body
Luke 4: 14-21 – Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth
“Living in the light – As One Body”
Come into the garden of God, for there you will find peace. Come into the garden of God, for there you will find rest. Come into the garden of God, for there you will find hope. And we come as one body with many members just as a garden is one body of creation with many flowers. We come from our busy lives, to join in this time of quiet. We come into the garden seeking God’s presence and we pray for wholeness of mind, body and spirit.
Many people work very hard to create gardens around their homes and in their communities. A garden is a wonderful place of flowers and greenery; a place where butterflies float among the roses and soft breezes carry the delicate scent of lilacs. The song of birds and the lazy drone of insects is music in the garden and belong as members of the garden. Bubbling water in a fountain adds life and sparkle.
This gentle peaceful scene is one that beckons us in many ways. In our complex world we might long for a beautiful refuge where life seems simple and serene. We carry in our hearts and minds the ideal of a life that is less stressful and not filled with so many pressures. We might feel that if only we could live in a garden all would be well. There we could be patient and kind; we could forgive our enemies and we could make life worth living. So, I ask if this might be why be seek sanctuary right here from the stresses of daily living knowing in our heart acceptance as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many are one body.
It would be easier if we lived in a gentle world, but we live in a world that is neither gentle nor tranquil. Sometimes there is little peace or harmony. And so we come into the garden of God, for here you will find hope…..
I wonder what it means for you to feel you really belong that you are part of something. When Paul was writing to the new Christian community in Corinth, he writes to a fragmented group that was struggling for a sense of identity and had problems with division. There were members of the community who did not feel like they belonged whilst others claimed a stronger sense of belonging and so deliberately excluded others. In many ways this behaviour reflects the nature of many community groups and even churches today. All gatherings would do well to live out this scripture as a community of faith. We gather as an inclusive community where the foot is as important as the eye; the hand as important as the ear; we all belong; are included.
This invitation to all of us, to invite everyone to the party is a challenge because of different denominational beliefs and people living in a consumer culture. Paul was encouraging the Corinthians to see beyond their ethnic bias and welcome all. (Jews or Greeks, slaves or free). You, belong, you and you and them, belong – we are the body of Christ. We can borrow the words of Jesus and say, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in our hearing.”
As we continue to explore the garden and look deeper into its shadows, we can see, along with the comfort and ease, the other side of the picture. In the midst, of the garden is a snake. One of the many meanings the snake has is to remind us of the struggle of life and the temptations that are ever with us. There is evil, pain, and discord in our garden-world and struggles come to each of us in various forms. Children become ill, life gives us life-changing punches; there are glorious hills and dark valleys. The thorns and thistles in our garden beds come to us slyly. We cannot give up when pricked by the thorns of life but must have hope to try to change things. Each one of us can make a difference in how another, responds to the pricks of life. Our garden, our church needs to be a place where we walk in harmony with God and with each other as we seek peace in our lives. We need to gather with others who are struggling to keep our garden a place of beauty and wholeness. God is our gardener. If we keep our eyes and our hopes on the good gifts of the garden, we will be at home there, and to be at home in the garden is to be at one with God.
I am reading a book called “The Language of Flowers” written by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. She has inspired this message on gardens and flowers, inclusion and exclusion, and just maybe a bit of spring fever also. The book is set in Victorian time. The language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions in the Victorian era. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After an isolated childhood spent in the foster-care system, her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she is forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it is worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.
Victoria literally lives in a garden where she steals and transplants flowers in a wooden portion of a park where she lives after leaving a group home, demeaned unfit for adoption and reaching the age of 18. As I read on, I want to discover how an excluded child could become an included, gifted adult. Exclusion is a terrible disease in lots of ways. I have felt it and perhaps you have also. Whether it is living in a garden like Victoria or being a member of a community of faith, inclusion is paramount for peace and hope and for love to thrive, for each of us. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could make our garden world green again and replace the thorns and thistles with flowers and fruit? May this be our prayer so all might live in the light. Amen.